Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Focus in Ecocriticism

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Dr. Kathleen Kane

Commitee Members

Dr. Kathleen Kane, Dr. Robert Baker, Dr. Elizabeth A. Hubble


Nabokov, Lolita, Melancholy, Gender, Schiesari, Agamben


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Literature in English, North America


This paper argues that in Lolita, the narrator Humbert Humbert uses the subject-position of the great male melancholic in order to, at the discursive level, (re)perform violent acts of appropriation against Dolly’s body, subjectivity and representation. Humbert attempts to translate the loss and waste which he brings about into perverse sorts of gain; these gains relate to processes such as catharsis, compensation, redemption, regeneration, a sense of exceptionality, and aesthetic/erotic/artistic enjoyment. The project has an introduction and two sections. The introduction demonstrates how Humbert enters into the male melancholic subject-position in order to perform his sorrow in a way that threatens to suppress the suffering of others. The first section addresses the manifestations of this gendered form of melancholia in Lolita. It aims to situate and define “gendered melancholy” by tracing a historical sketch of the development of this tradition and then showing how Humbert participates in it. The second section addresses the motivations of this gendered form of melancholia in Lolita. It aims to demonstrate how a masculine form of anxiety undergirds both Humbert’s art and his sense of melancholia, which I then argue is coextensive with his problematic appropriation and suppression of Dolly’s representation.



© Copyright 2019 Joseph D. Brookbank